The Mother’s Rage

Something a little different today…mother's rage

I recently had an interaction over Facebook that left me boiling.

There is a page that I’ve been a member of for a while that is devoted to all things “woo-woo”.

Now, a lot of so called “woo-woo” knowledge is simply ancient wisdom that our industrialized society has forgotten, and it can be quite valuable. Our connection to Mama Earth as her children and caretakers is one such viewpoint that is especially important for folks to wake up to right now.

Unfortunately, many of the folks who are in the New Age movement are often ungrounded space cadets who embrace all things floaty, mystical and angelic because they are subconsciously trying to avoid the incredible amounts of pain and suffering that is still within them. They want to ascend into their light body because their flesh and blood body is simply too painful a place to be. Also unfortunately, many ancient mystical traditions follow this path of denial of the body in order to “purify the self” – viewing the body as only an inconvenient container wherein our soul must be imprisoned while here on Earth.

Poor Body… so very misunderstood!

Anyway, one of these folks was asking for advice in regards to dealing with her young daughter who, she complained, was so grumpy, difficult and uncooperative all the time!

She asked the woo folks for any recommendations for books or tarot cards that might help her daughter “be more positive”. The community took up the call – pouring in advice about angel cards, crystals, positive thinking manuals for kids, meditation techniques and the like…. basically a whole bunch of stuff that may be good in some situations, but that will do NOTHING to help this poor child, because the problem is in her nervous system, not in her thinking.

I was pissed.

I chimed in with my viewpoint and, while I wasn’t attacking or mean, I was very blunt and straightforward when I told her that if she really wanted to help her daughter, she needed to address the unresolved rage and grief within herself that her daughter was reflecting back to her.

Instead of trying to “fix” her daughter, she needed to look at herself and her family dynamics, and try to get to the root of the unresolved fight/flight survival energies that were clearly at play.

Well… she didn’t like that one bit.

I was called abusive and asked to never comment on anything she posted again, so I respected this and remained silent.

But I did write a little poem.

This poem is all about what fueled my need to chime in with somewhat brutal honesty. It’s about the fact that we are deeply intertwined with the Earth. It’s about the fact that the more we accept and express the rage, terror, grief, shame and helplessness that is within ourselves, the less our poor mama Earth will have to “vent”, as she is literally doing around the pacific rim right now.

There are many volcanoes in Japan steaming, there is one of the coast of Oregon erupting underwater, plus… anybody noticed a pattern of extreme weather and increasingly frequent earthquakes lately?

We are the consciousness of the Earth.

Our body is her body.

Let’s help take the load off please.

The Mother’s Rage

I am the voice of Rage 

That cries out from the wilderness, “ENOUGH!”

I am the suffering that sings a song of sickness in your cells

I am the nervousness in your nerves 

the anxiety in your amygdala 

and the knot in your guts.

Look around you, seekers of Truth!

Put down your prayer beads.

The ancient holy lands are crumbling 

for they were built on the denial of Body

And now Body will have its day.

Now the bones of the Earth will rise up 

now her teeth will devour 

now her tears will drown 

the seekers of Heaven.

Now is the time of Body and she will have her terrible Justice.

 

No Pain, No Gain…… FIRST BLOOD!

How My Buddy Used Rambo As A Resource

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I love that you can be friends with someone for 20 years  and still find out things that you never knew about them. A  few days ago I was hanging out with my long-time buddy  Don, who had recently undergone a major surgery, and  this exact thing happened.

 In my field of trauma recovery (to be clear, I’m taking  about trauma in the psyche and nervous system, I’m not a  doctor) I see lots of people who are having difficulty in the  present because of a surgical operation in the past. Even though we don’t generally think of surgeries as being traumatic – after all, we usually undergo them to fix a major health problem or even to save our lives – any operation is still an insult to the body. The body simply does not like being cut into, opened up and re-arranged, period.

However, we can greatly decrease, and even eliminate traumatic after effects of surgery by setting up the proper conditions as we go in, and come out of that anesthetic state.

Lots of open, compassionate communication with the doctors who will be performing the operation beforehand, and leading right up to the moment we go under is key – so we can set up the conditions where our body recognizes that person as an ally, and not a threat. Also, having family members and/or friends there as close as possible to the moment we go under, and also having them there when we awaken, is key to facilitating a good transition and recovery.

So, knowing all this, I inquired with my buddy about his experience. He seemed to be doing really well from what I could tell, not showing any signs of shock trauma or disassociation, and sure enough –  he had developed a very good rapport with the surgeon beforehand and was well supported by his family both before and after, but then he said something that led to this article being written, something I previously had no idea about!

He told me that he was also mentally and emotionally prepared for the surgery by all the other surgeries he had gone through in his life.

What!? I had no idea that this close friend of mine, whom I hadn’t met till college, had undergone many, many procedures, tests and surgeries through the course of his young life.

As he told me more and more about the illnesses and surgeries he had gone through as a young one, which all stemmed from being wounded by a procedure while still in the womb, my jaw dropped more and more…. and more.

Because I know about how surgeries and injuries can cause strain and dysregulation in the nervous system, and particularly how detrimental an injury suffered while still in utero can be, I just couldn’t believe how well and healthy my buddy was!

So I started asking him more about his early experiences and I explained to him the reason for my fascination – how could he be so healthy compared to other people who have been through similar experiences? What were his resources as a kid that enabled him to have such a positive outcome?

He took awhile to think about it and then said, “dude, it all comes down to this….. no pain, no gain….. FIRST BLOOD!”

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I imagine  that my confusion at that point was the same as yours is now, so let me explain.

By the time he was around 9 years old Don had already been through several serious illnesses and one surgical operation, all of which he recovered from well, and he told me that that was part of what had enabled him to face the next, upcoming surgery with optimism.

The doctors had found the scar tissue on one of his vital organs that was the result of the in-utero wound he had suffered and had realized that this scar tissue was at the root of all his difficulties.

So even though the upcoming surgery was going to be major, Don was able to face it with the knowledge that he had already successfully recovered from many previous trials.

But even more than all that, he told me, what really got him through was the movie First Blood, starring Sylvester Stallone. His family had a copy of the movie which he watched over and over and over again during the weeks leading up to his surgery.

There is a scene in that movie when Rambo has been wounded and has to stitch up his own flesh without the benefit of anesthetic. It was this scene in particular that totally fascinated Don, and he would rewind the tape and watch it over and over again.

He adopted the “No Pain, No Gain”, attitude of Rambo as his own personal slogan; and he said that he got so pumped up watching Sylvester stitch up his own wounded flesh that when it came time for his own surgery he would have liked to watch it happen!

He was eager to have his old scar tissue removed and confident that, just like his hero, he would emerge from the ordeal better than ever, and mentally and emotionally stronger than before.

And he did!

So what was going on? How did watching a gruesome scene from an action movie prepare him so well for surgery?

Well, the images and experiences we take in from movies are interpreted by our physiology as equally real as anything else. Watching this flick, and that one scene in particular, pumped up Don’s sympathetic nervous system. He would watch and get that activation, and then, in his psyche, the ramping up of sympathetic energy became coupled with a successful surgical outcome. Essentially he was priming the pump, so to speak, for his own upcoming experience.

So when the time came to actually undergo surgery, and the inevitable sympathetic activation got going in his system, that association was there as a tremendous positive resource for him, along with the experience of all the other health related trials he had successfully endured. Instead of feeling terrified and trapped, as is so common with kids who have to undergo surgery, he felt excited and confident.

Brilliant!

Hearing this story I was profoundly struck by our creative abilities and resilience as human beings.

One last important thing to mention is that his parents were there right up to the time of the surgery and right after. Also, he had secure attachment and close family bonds all his life. They had fights and struggles as all families do, but he also always witnessed these disagreements resolving – another powerful resource for his young system that let him know that even though there was strain and difficulty in life, there could also be resolution and peace.

Because of his solid foundation and instinctive, creative resourcing, he is the happy and healthy guy that I know and love today.

Thanks Rambo!

What Happens In Vagus….

So I was putting together this graphic for my lovely wife, Irene, for her upcoming course and I thought I’d share it with you, and a little bit about why it’s important.

Supra-Diaphragmatic Zone

At first glance you might think…… huh? So let me explain a bit.

This is a picture of all of the organs in the chest and abdomen that are enervated by the Vagus Nerve. “Supra-Diaphragmatic” and “Sub-Diaphragmatic” are science speak for above and below the diaphragm – that band of shiny muscle that lets us breath.

The important thing to really see in this picture is that ALL these organs are run by different branches of the same nerve – it governs digestion, breathing, heart rate, immune functions, etc…. in other words, this picture shows very clearly just how damn important that Vagus is.

Now, here’s the connection to what that means for you, as people who are interested in your health and sense of well-being…

The Vagus nerve also governs something else, and that is the big shut down, or FREEZE response, that happens when our physiology detects that our life is in danger. When that happens the Vagus sends out a message to all those organs it’s connected to, telling everybody to slow down. The heart slows, digestion crawls to a stop, our breathing gets shallow and our whole body enters a low-oxygen state of conservation in which we are numbed out to our own sensations.

This shut down is very often part of what happens when we live as survivors of trauma, or chronic stress. As an infant, this shut down response can happen very easily. Simply leave a baby to “cry itself to sleep” (which is a ridiculous phrase as it implies some sort of self-soothing which a baby is physiologically unable to do – they’re just not wired for it yet) what actually happens is that baby’s sympathetic nervous system revs and revs – the crying, progressing to shrieking, etc… until the body literally feels that it will die and so it shuts down and the baby essentially passes out.

I give this example to point out how very common it is for a person to be walking around with some level of this unresolved freeze response sitting in their system. It can happen from an injury in front of peers, where you hold it all in and “play it cool”, when actually you are simply numbing out and disassociating. There are countless ways in our society that a person may pass through overwhelming experiences that will trigger this shut-down response.

Here’s the real kicker – this survival response is meant to be time-limited. Animals come out of it naturally, often accompanied by shaking and twitching all over, discharging the fight or flight energy that built up before the freeze took over.

Us humans though, with our big smart neo-cortexes, we have the power to actually suppress this natural process of thawing and we are usually encouraged to do so from a very young age.

“Don’t cry”, “Be a big girl”, etc… is enough to train a young nervous system to repress the natural flow, and if that kid was a baby that was left to cry itself to sleep, this pattern will already be ingrained as a response to anything overwhelming.

Then, very easily, everything becomes overwhelming as that kid’s nervous system gets more and more blocked up and disorganized. Welcome to your lifetime struggle with anxiety and depression, kid!

Here is the real point though… it doesn’t have to be a lifetime struggle.

Thanks to innovators like Peter Levine, Stephen Porges, Pat Ogden, Bessel Van De Kolk and many more who have developed and advanced psychobiological approaches to trauma therapy, we can now help people re-regulate their bruised and battered nervous systems and psyches.

I know, cause I was one of those kids and now I help others do just this!

Remember…. what happens in Vagus, stays in Vagus….. unless you help it get out!

The Coffee Parable

de4a8eeea6fe449888b371eafe8272d4I recently had a big AHA! moment.

I know this sounds silly, but it came when I realized, “you know what? life is just to damn precious to waste time drinking coffee that I don’t really like.”

Silly, I know. But it really did hit me all of a sudden that this “preference” I had, up ’til then, held for french roast coffee (the darkest roast available), was not really my preference at all.

You see, I had been flirting for a while with drinking medium roast coffee and all of a sudden it just hit me like, “BAM! I like this better!” Moreover, I realized that I had been subconsciously detesting the taste of french roast for a while, but had been in denial of this because I had for so many years just accepted that “I like dark roast”.

But when the momentum of my growing appreciation for something fruitier, subtler, with warmer notes and less acidity became unstoppable, culminating in that lightning bolt from the sky that declared forever more that, “I AM NOW A MEDIUM ROAST DRINKER”, well, when that happened it also hit me that my supposed preference for bitter, burnt tasting coffee came from my folks.

In my house growing up it always french roast. Always.

I had developed my preference simply because that’s what was around.

This is a great parable for relationships in general I think.

When we grow up in a abusive home, like I did, we cultivate and embed neural pathways and nervous system management strategies that help us navigate the stress of our experience. Then we subconsciously just accept that, “this is the way it is”.

The understandings of the detrimental effects of childhood trauma on the nervous system and brain, and in health and well-being as an adult, have only recently been understood. Google the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) study for the science.

The point is that we all form conscious and subconscious preferences for certain experiences and behaviors that support the particular physiology we have developed and, in the case of traumatized individuals, those preferences are often for things that don’t actually serve us that well, in terms of our wholeness and health.

When we start to heal, we may find that our preferences for certain types of food, entertainment, environments, and even people may change.

We may realize, “you know what, I don’t actually LIKE being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t support me or express care and compassion”. And when we realize something like that, it’s so important that we muster the courage to leave those old desires, and even people, behind.

When we do, there is always something waiting for us that is better, that will more effectively serve our unfolding into a new, more integrated and healthy way of being.

Whether it be a new career, exercise routine, relationship, or city, it’s so important that we heed the advice of what our body tells us about what it really needs and wants.

Even if it’s something as simple as a damn fine cup of coffee.

 

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